Venture Lab startup seeks to revolutionize physical therapy

UC alumnus found resources and confidence through pre-accelerator program

When Abby McInturf was a University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) student on her way to a degree in industrial design, she studied ways to enhance human health through better design.

Her research and experiences in the UC Venture Lab led her, shortly after graduation, to found a company called Band Connect that improves physical therapy rehabilitation for a host of musculoskeletal injuries.

“Physical therapy hasn't changed since it started,” McInturf said.

One study has shown that each year one quarter of adults suffer musculoskeletal injuries, but “patients are still using paper handouts with stick-figure drawings,” she said. This may explain why less than a third of physical therapy patients keep to their care plans. 

So McInturf developed sensor-enabled equipment that offers patients a clinical experience at home while providing therapists real-time insight into their progress.

Resources and confidence

McInturf got a boost from the Venture Lab in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub, where she met Band Connect co-founder Rohit Nayak during an eight-week pre-accelerator program. Through the Venture Lab, McInturf discovered that the technology she was developing to reduce concussions in women soccer players had applications in physical therapy and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. 

“That was incredibly helpful,” she said of the pre-accelerator program. “The Venture Lab gave us the resources, and me as a student the confidence, to start this right out of school.”

Idea, meet expert

The Venture Lab supports innovators by providing talent and seed funding to launch new companies based on scalable business ideas. Teams with significant startup potential are eligible to apply for funding from the university and the state of Ohio. 

It's working. Since the program’s launch five years ago, startups at UC have increased from one to three per year to an average of 14, generating tens of millions of dollars in grant funding, third-party investment and revenue. 

By providing insight into what the patients are doing at home, we're creating a better relationship between the physical therapist and the patient.

Abby McInturf Founder, Band Connect

Creating a better relationship

Band Connect embeds sensors in the handles of exercise equipment to allow physical therapists to monitor a patient’s experience remotely after their treatment session. The patient can be monitored asynchronously, and no cameras are needed, which is “a huge benefit we've seen from talking to customers,” McInturf said. “There are no cameras or strap-on sensors; the patient is able to just pick up the device and use it.”

Two clinical trials and a U.S. Army pilot trial later, her idea of personalized in-home physical therapy is a reality. 

“We're really excited about the feedback we've gotten from health systems around the region and the clinicians that we've been working with, excited about that engagement,” McInturf said. “By providing insight into what the patients are doing at home, we're creating a better relationship between the physical therapist and the patient.”

Featured image at top: Abby McInturf founded Band Connect shortly after graduating from UC. Photo by Gregory Glevicky/1819 Innovation Hub MarCom team

Connect with the UC Venture Lab

The UC Venture Lab assists entrepreneurs from idea conception to startup launch, connecting students, faculty, staff and the community to knowledge, talent and resources to create scalable startups. The team includes UC staff, entrepreneurs-in-residence, mentors and technical experts. 

Do you have an idea for a scalable startup? Apply to our pre-accelerator program. Would you like to impart your entrepreneurial wisdom to promising teams? Learn more about our entrepreneurs-in-residence program. 

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